Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
When people criticize remakes, the first thing they bring up is that the studios are always remaking films that were great the first time, and they should just remake a movie that wasn’t good and attempt to make it better. That almost never happens… But there was that one time it almost did. Dating back to the mid-2000s, horror legend Wes Craven had plans to remake one of his least successful films, Shocker. Now, I actually love Shocker. I didn’t for a long time, only being able to see the problems with it—because let’s not kid ourselves, there are many. But if I’m having fun, laughing, and enjoying the action in a movie that’s only trying to be fun, funny and full of action, I can’t come down on it too hard.
Most people, for the record, don’t feel the same [Editor’s Note: I will be the first to admit that I, also, dig Shocker]. Unlike many horror movies that flopped in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Shocker has not found its audience over time. It’s still considered a black mark on Craven’s career, even one that fans go so far as to consider proof that Craven did not deserve the title of “master of horror,” which is offensive and ridiculous.
Craven himself saw the issues with Shocker, saw that it wasn’t the success that he knew it could be, partially because of the uneven structure and largely because of the unfinished effects and the way that the feature was butchered by the MPAA. He knew he could do that one better if given a chance and there were several points at which it seemed like it was going to happen.
In 2007, Craven said, “I think that if we were going to do Shocker, the original film had some real disasters happen with the special effects and opticals. It really fell short of what I wanted to do because we ran out of money and ended up having someone do them that didn’t know what he was doing. I think if that were done with better technical finesse in the opticals and special effects, I think it could be a lot of fun.”
The fact that he was talking about this in 2007 is extremely important considering that only a year before, Craven had a hand in remaking The Hills Have Eyes and it had been a huge success. There was reason to get excited for a Wes Craven remake, no matter what it was.
Even as he moved on to producing the remake of Last House on the Left, Craven still spoke of how great it would be to remake Shocker if the opportunity presented itself. He kept focusing on the problems with the original film’s visual FX, noting that “The guy who was doing all the visual effects kind of flamed out, had a nervous breakdown because he was attempting more than he could actually do. When he told us towards the end of the movie that not a single one of the special effects was actually working, he was working on a new technique, my son’s job specifically became just to find all the negative. It was all around town in unmarked boxes and under people’s editing [benches]. It was a nightmare itself. We pulled every favor in town to get all those special effects done very quickly, and some of them are pretty sketchy.”
Even Peter Berg said in 2014 that he would love to come back and star in the Shocker remake if Wes Craven directed it. Since starring in the original, Berg went on to a successful directing career of his own, helming movies like The Rundown, Friday Night Lights, and Hancock. The idea of him returning to this horror movie after several blockbuster successes under his belt is actually kind of charming and it would have been cool to see.
As for what happened to the Shocker remake and why we never actually got to see it—and probably never will—it sadly just seemed to pass on with its creator. Craven was the number one person championing this remake. It wasn’t a title held up at a studio that they needed to find a young music video director to tackle. He spent years trying to convince people that it could be great. And he was still talking about the possibility of remaking Shocker right up until he got sick.
Without Wes Craven it seems incredibly unlikely that the Shocker remake will ever see the light of day. And that’s probably for the best. The whole point of this one seemed to be that its original creator wanted to fix his own mistakes and make the movie he’d dreamed of making in the first place. It was a chance to execute a vision that just didn’t quite come through the first time around. Without that goal, without that passion behind it, a Shocker remake would just be… a Shocker remake.
For that, we’re probably better off without it. Instead, it’s fun just to speculate on how much weirder and more exciting this concept could’ve been if Craven had been allowed to go as big as he wanted to go.